Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Maple Syrup Time On The Farm

Maple Syrup Time On The Farm

That time of year had come again. Each year went by quicker and quicker. Everyone always said it would. Milder temperatures with sunshine during the day. Cooler temperatures at night. Perfect weather to start preparing for maple syrup time.
Callies grandparents, Eva and Alex, were the fourth generation on Springdale Farm. Callie hoped to take over from them some day. For now she had to finish agricultural college, work on another farm, and then prepare to become the fifth generation at Springdale. That time couldn't come soon enough for her. She knew she had to respect her grandparents wishes. They were too young to retire yet anyway.
Eva and Alex had never missed a year of syrup making. The new sugar shack had been built five years ago. It contained state of the art syrup making equipment. The likes of which Eva and Alex had never seen before. They knew they had to modernize to stay competitive and they weren't getting any younger. Deep down they knew they had to do it for Callie. Times were tough for new farmers and they wanted to help Callie out any way they could. They were so proud of their granddaughter. She worked hard and she was passionate about farming. She loved Springdale Farm as much as they did.
Snap, snap, snap went branches beneath Callies feet. It was a beautiful day to be out in the bush with her grandparents. The wagon had to be unloaded. There was pipe to connect, buckets to hang and wood to be piled. But Callie had other thoughts. The closer she got to the old sugar shack the more her mind wandered. Back to a simpler time. A time when everyone worked hard from morning to night. Families were close. There was not much money to go around. You struggled to make ends meet. The money made on maple syrup sales usually paid the taxes. Callie recalled the stories passed from one generation to the next at maple syrup time. She decided to have a quick look in the old sugar shack.
The door of the shack got harder to open each year. The hinges getting rustier and creaking louder as time went on. The old shanty didn't look too bad inside and out. Behind the door hung an old full length black woolen coat with matching gloves, hat and scarf. Hard to believe that could keep someone warm. The small window in the side wall had all its panes of glass in. None of the panes were even cracked. They had weathered the storms well. The view from here was magnificent. Acres and acres of one hundred year old maples. Once and a while a glimpse of wildlife. Deer, coyotes, fox, raccoons, skunks and various birds.
On the back wall hung an assortment of rusty aging tools. Saws, hammers, axes and drills, which had seen better days. All arranged neatly and placed there by loving hands over the generations. Those were the days when everyone took pride in their work and accomplishments.
A rustic looking table and chairs were pushed against the back wall. Callie imagined people sharing a meal around that table and the stories that were told. If only the walls could talk.
Hung high on one of the rafters was an old coal oil lamp. Callie wondered if anyone had ever used it to guide them home after a long, hard day in the bush. She almost forgot the wooden paddle used for stirring the tank. She could see the sap boiling now. Many memories were contained in these four walls. Callie could only imagine how things were with the first generation. How things had changed from one generation to the next.
As Callie stepped outside to see if the exterior of the building was intact her eyes caught sight of the old smoke stack. What a joy for everyone to see smoke curling out of the stack. A sure sign of spring and syrup making time. The outer walls and roof were not in bad shape. A few shingles missing here and there. The shanty had done well over the years.
Callie breathed in the fresh spring air. It was nice to be outside after a long hard winter. They'd had a lot of snow this year but it didn't slow anyone down.
Callies mind wandered again from the old shacks time, through the years to the new shack. It was so new. So modern and full of technology. It even had electricity. Generations before may have said the new shack was " a lazy mans way of doing things". Callie liked the new shack. She treasured the old one. What a contrast between the two. Maybe someday in the future she would have maple syrup tours and fix up the original shack for everyone to see. A team of horses could haul supplies to the shack and back. Wood could be chopped by hand and not by chainsaw. Callie wanted to continue on farming and make her grandparents happy with their decision to leave the farm to her. She knew she would have to modernize but still hang on to as many traditions as possible.
Callie could hear her grandparents calling her. How long had she been reminiscing of times gone by. She'd have to get all the stories that had been passed from generation to generation recorded for future generations. She hoped the farm stayed in the family for many years to come.
Now for this future farmer she had better get the wagon unloaded and get preparing for another year of tapping trees. A lot of work but well worth all it entailed. To smell the wood fire and the sap as it boiled in the tank. The final product ...maple syrup. Mmmmmmm she could taste it now. Pancakes and maple syrup.


  1. This story was published in "The Rural Route" May 2011. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

  2. I totally remember reading this, now. I didn't know you at the time but I recall thinking how good it was. Still do. great job, Caroline. You have captured the essence of the moment and allowed your reader to journey back for a short while with Callie. Keep writing! You're a natural.

  3. Thank you Glynis. You are too kind!